"Most Amazing Feeling EVER"
Hi Seminole fans!! First off I gotta say sorry about not writing a blog last week - it has been a very hectic and busy past two weeks and since we played our last ACC match on a Wednesday I thought I would just throw it all into one massive blog - so bear with me because this may get a little lengthy but I am going to tell you some incredible news!! Now let's get started back when my team and I were going to be playing our last ACC match in Tully Gym against Boston College and Maryland. As a team we know that these two teams may not be at the top of the conference but as we learned this season, we CAN'T look down upon any team that we play, because everyone was out to beat us! We practiced all week in preparation for BC and Maryland - each day making sure we stayed as consistent as we could. Friday came along and it was Game Day! Before class I helped Holly decorate the back court in Tully for the ceremony in Coach Cecile Reynaud's honor - being the amazing coach she was here at Florida State when they last won the ACC Championship. As serve and pass began and my team and I got ready for the coaches to come talk to us about strategies for that match, thoughts kept running through my head that these were my last two ACC home games - it was tough because I was resting my sore shin so I wasn't going to play too much - and I am so proud of what Sareea Freeman has accomplished this season that I knew my teammates were in good hands.
And then we were off - and things were clicking right away and my team looked great! We won the first set and continued to push through and win the second set. As we went into our little tent to talk between set 2 and 3 - the excitement was building up among my teammates because we knew that if we were to win that match that we would have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament - something that hasn't happened in 6 years! And we wanted that to happen not only for the coaches but for ourselves, because we worked so hard this season not to reap the benefits of it. We charged out of the gate in the beginning and never looked back as we won the 3rd set making it 3-0. Sareea and Mira Djuric played great that night and the team as a whole stepped up when needed and we accomplished a very clean, consistent match. CP said, "I am extremely proud of the girls and I am even more excited for them tonight. They have just put in so much hard work this past year and they deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament. They went out tonight and played hard and played like they wanted to be ACC champions." After the match we all made our way to the back court where our little party was set up for Coach Reynaud. Being part of the Seminole Volleyball Program since I was about 10 or so - it was an amazing feeling to be honoring such an incredible coach and such a sincere women who has constantly helped me in my college career and helped me become who I am today. My mom went digging through our old boxes and found my FSU Ball Girl shirt from back when we lived here in Tallahassee and my sisters as well - and of course we had to show Coach!
Saturday meant one thing in Tallahassee that day - FOOTBALL! It was a great day for me because I had family and friends from home come into town for the game that day and for our match on Sunday. So I was pretty happy (as my mom would say). The game was scheduled to start at noon so my mom and I made our way to the baseball stadium around 10 to watch the Skull Session - which is the Marching Chiefs warm-up session before the football game starts. And I finally got my picture with my friend Jenn from high school in her band uniform - or at least half of it!
As the Skull Session ended I met up with my cousins and my friends from home and we went over to a tailgate of some people my dad knows from work - in other words free food! And you know us athletes we always seem to be hungry ... Jenna ... cough ... cough... :) The football game was going to be an emotional one for our team mostly because it was their Senior Night, as well as Coach Mickey Andrews' last home game because he is retiring after this season. Also the football team introduced their new Nike Pro Uniforms to everyone in Tallahassee - and I gotta say they're pretty sweet looking! As James, Danielle, and I made our way into Doak Campbell Stadium for the last time that season, we listened to the roar of the crowd and the excitement flowed through my veins. That game was going to be interesting because we were not sitting in the student section like I am used to! But one good thing was that I didn't have to stand up the entire time! The only down side to going to the game was that I was going to have to leave early because we had practice that afternoon. But before I left we made sure we would remember being there:
As I made my way to Tully I hurried as much as I could because the game wasn't over yet and we were currently down so I had to see what would happen! I made it to the training room with about 2 minutes left on the clock and my trainers, Brandon our manager, Coach Quinn our strength coach, and Lauren Young were watching the game and screamed numerous times! We finally won the game and we were just a little late going up to practice ... sorry CP! After practice James, Danielle and I went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner where we had a very awkward encounter ... Jordana, Steph, and I ended up eating there that night and just our luck the entire Maryland team went to eat there as well ... so as we walked out to leave I felt 15 sets of eyes just watching us as we left. Ha! I didn't even want to look up it was so weird!! As CP said on Friday, "Sunday is going to be an important day for us. It's a big deal that we can claim the outright conference championship but we are also going for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament and we know that in order to do that we need to win out. It gives us another opportunity to come out and keep getting better." And that is exactly what was going through my teammates' heads as we made our way to Tully that Sunday morning. We wanted to do something that has never been done in school history - win the ACC outright. And that is what we did! Before the match our emotions were definitely running high because it was Senior Night - for Nikki, Jordana, Mira, and myself - it was going to be one of the last times we would step onto Lucy McDaniel Court (or so we thought) together as a group of seniors, and realizing what we're gone through in the past 4 years of being at FSU.
As they announced my fellow seniors before myself, I had the biggest smile on my face because I have loved each girl so much and they have meant so much to me in my volleyball career at FSU - from Nikki who was my roommate freshmen year, who constantly makes me laugh, to Mira who pushed me to become the player I am today, to Jordana my fellow middle who has been there for me whenever I needed someone. It was a very emotional time for sure. As we lined up for the national anthem and I held my final mini volleyball in my hand and I took Steph and Taylor's hands - I just had the best feeling going from my head to my toes. As all 4 seniors started the match and we traded points back and forth with Maryland - we won the first set but didn't play like we knew how to. The 2nd set was similar to the first- not being able to find the groove. But we won and as we made our way back to our intermission area - the coaches just said one thing and that was "Play." Plain and simple. We knew that was what we had to do and we proved to our coaches and ourselves that we could play better. As Sareea stepped in for me in the 3rd set and played her heart out, the team responded and rolled off to a huge lead. As the score got closer and closer to 25 - it finally hit my team and I - WE WERE GOING TO BE ACC CHAMPS! We ended the match on an amazing note with a 25-9 win and we ran to shake hands quick with Maryland and couldn't wait to be in our team huddle with the coaches. Little did they know that we had a little surprise for them - as you know when football coaches win big games they get the traditional "Gatorade Shower." We wanted to do that in some way ... but it's hard when the court is wood and we don't want liquid all over it. So we came up with the fabulous idea of confetti and packing peanuts so as the freshmen entertained the coaches, Jordana, Mira and I ran to get the coolers and dumped them over our coaches and teammates. And the best part about the whole thing was the first thing that came out of CP was, "Now who is going to clean this up?" Oh, CP.
In tradition we ran over to the band that plays the fight song after every match - but they had a little surprise for us. As we all linked arms they began playing "We are the Champions" and here came the tears again!
I was just SO proud of the things my team accomplished that season and I couldn't imagine my senior season to be any other way. CP said, "They have been challenged so much this year and they could have let down but they didn't. These players have always found a way to overcome not playing well and have stayed together as a team all year no matter the situation. I am just so proud of them for what they have accomplished this season." As the song ended I turned to Jordana, Steph, Mira, and Sareea who were next to me and we gave each other the biggest group hug and it just felt like no other feeling I've experienced. And then the band started playing the fight song with one more surprise for us - they wrote the words out to the fight song ... since I am the only one who knows all the words and we started a new tradition that day - we took a picture with the band who has made our season so much more amazing then it already was. And they parted and we fit perfectly right between them.
It was COMPLETE madness after the match - so many people around and I just wanted to find my family!! I took so many pictures that day that my cheeks hurt so much! Here are some of the pictures from that day:
Oh what a weekend! It was a quick turnaround for my teammates and I because we had to go and play Miami down in Miami Wednesday for our last ACC match. Monday came around and we were right back into practice mode preparing for the Hurricanes. We had some wonderful surprises Monday when we got to practice. Not only did we move up to #14 in the AVCA poll but Mira was named ACC Player of the Week! CP said first about Mira, "Mira was outstanding this weekend. It is always tough to come back from an injury and particularly when you have to sit out a year of competition. She has worked very hard in the last few weeks to be more consistent and limit some of her errors. There's no doubt she is an impact player and when she is playing well, our team is successful."
I couldn't be more proud of my Serbian Serving Sensation! And CP also talked about the AVCA rankings, "This team continues to amaze me. It is unusual for a team to climb in the Top 25 poll when they have not had a recent history of being ranked. I believe there are still a lot of coaches and fans that do not know what to think about our program this season. We can't control the votes, but we can control our effort and focus on our side of the net. We have maintained a strong NCAA RPI all season and continue to move up the AVCA Coaches poll ... We will continue to work hard and determined to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament." Oh yes we will! And the best part about being #14 in the polls for that week was that, according to out SID, "this is the first time in the history of FSU volleyball that the Seminoles are ranked ahead of the Gators in a national poll." WOOOOOOOOOO! As we boarded our plane Tuesday for Miami, it was crazy to think that this was our LAST ACC match! It was going to be an interesting trip because we played on a Wednesday which is different than our normal match schedule and after our match we got to go home for Thanksgiving!! We got the sweetest surprise when we arrived in Miami - we were staying in one of the nicest hotels, The Mayfair Hotel and Spa, I've ever stayed in before! We pulled up to the hotel and as we walked in we were in awe. The lobby of the hotel was completely open - no roof at all! So it was a little warm! When Jenna and I arrived at our room, "The Canary Suite," we didn't know what to expect. As we walked into our room all we could say was WOW! We had a massive suite - with a personal Japanese hot tub, a TV in the bathroom, and our own little lounge area! Craziness! Here are some pics:
Too bad we only got to stay one night!! That night we got to go to a restaurant to watch the FSU vs. UF Men's basketball game with some Seminole Boosters. It was a fun night even though we lost the basketball game. We got back to the hotel and watched game film and got ready for Miami the next day. We woke up Wednesday morning and went to a cute little restaurant for breakfast then made our way to the gym for serve and pass before the match. Things were going well as went to the locker room to get ready for game time!! We had some fun in the locker room - including trying to fit people into lockers... haha!
We knew that this was our last ACC match and we needed to just play consistent and end our ACC season well. The match started off a little slow and we ended up losing the first set. We changed sides and we looked to each other and came to the conclusion that we weren't going to lose another set. Things started flowing well and we finished off the match 3-1. Our very own Rachael Morgan had her career high in kills with 17 - she did very well that night! I think the best part of playing Miami for our last ACC match was that we had a great crowd come out to their their gym - we had more fans then the home team did...mostly thanks to the Romanelli's family and friends (I swear there were at least 30 people!) I got to see Summer Weising and her family - our libero from my freshmen and sophomore year at FSU - and she told me that I had to include her in this week's blog so here yah go Summy!
We did it! We pulled off one of the most successful seasons in FSU volleyball - and we weren't even done yet! According to our SID, "Not only did the 'Noles win more in-conference games than ever before but they also achieved the first-ever regular season outright ACC Championship. Wednesday's victory also extended the team's program-best league winning-streak to an impressive 16 in a row." I am so proud to be part of such an amazing team that pushes hard every day to prove to everyone how good FSU volleyball can be and that we are a force to be reckoned with! CP said, "It was a great match today. We allowed the first set to slip away but we came back strong to take control of the match. Overall we were pretty consistent." Little did we know what was awaiting us Sunday on the selection show - but we had one thing on our minds as we left Miami - THANKSGIVING!! My team and I were very excited because we got the option to drive from Miami to home for the holiday break - and we got to take our teammates that lived in another state or country home with us! So I grabbed my Turkish freshies Duygu and Fatma and hit the road for my aunt's house in Port St. Lucie. I warned both of my teammates that I come from a very large family and when we get together we tend to have lots of fun! And they were well prepared ... or at least I hope they were! As we arrived in PSL we got to the hotel and relaxed for a little bit, then we went to go see New Moon - the 2nd movie of the twilight series. Thanks to that movie and Fatti persuading me I am now part of Team Jacob! Ha! We got back to the hotel and passed out - it had been a long few days of traveling and playing. The next morning was thanksgiving and what is the best thing to do on Thanksgiving morning? Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade of course! Duygu and Fatma had never watched it before so it was cool getting the chance to show them a tradition that my family and I do almost every Thanksgiving! We relaxed and watched the parade and then made our way to my aunt's house for the party awaiting us! On my mom's side there are 7 brothers and sisters - but for this holiday there were only 3 present but we still had about 20 people in the house with the cousins and babies. Duygu got to meet Cora - my cousin's daughter and she accepted Duygu instantly - which was so cute!!
On our ride over to the house I was telling the girls about my aunt's puppies - Snoozer and Chewie - so we took a field trip to go see them! Snoozer is about the size of a small horse - he's a labradoodle (mix of a Labrador and a Poodle) and he was supposed to be covered in crazy curly blonde hair ... but they shaved him - so not so much. And I don't remember what kind of puppy Chewie is but he's so cute! They went crazy when Duygu, Fatma, and I showed up! As we went back to the house I took the girls on a ride in the golf cart my family owns - and I even let them drive it a little! And the best part about it was that on the front it still says "USA" from when they decorated in for 4th of July ... a little irony in there but that's ok!
As the food was being prepared in the kitchen and we were watching football on the TV - my grandma woke up from her nap and she was about to make the day so much better. I introduced Duygu and Fatma to her - and I was quite impressed that she said Duygu's name perfectly ... but then she thought I was pulling her leg and there was no way those were their names. I tried to tell her that yes they are from Turkey and those are their names - but my gram said straight to them, "Mary and Barbara ... those are your names." HA HA HA! So from now on Duygu is Mary and Fatma is Barbara - and I will never forget it! And we had another surprise that day - Rachael and Hannah from the golf team came to eat dinner with us - we had an international turkey day indeed!
I don't think my family was too crazy that they never want to come back and visit! The food was amazing and we ate until we were full - it was a fun filled day of relaxation and family and friends - and I couldn't have wanted it any other way. As we made our way backk home to Winter Springs - we came up with the brilliant plan of going to the outlet malls on International Drive at midnight - since the next day was BLACK FRIDAY! Oh my we were in for a surprise. We loaded up in my car around 11 and started driving down I-4. As we approached the Kirkman Road exit - traffic came to a dead stop ... still on the interstate. No way ... this can't be for the outlet mall. Oh yes it was - we ended up driving past everyone wanting to turn left onto International Drive and made a u-turn to avoid the massive lines of cars.
We were in line for an hour just trying to park our car! We eventually just parked and started walking toward the outlet mall. As we finally got to the outlets we were greeted by about 5,000 of our closest friends (maybe not that many but it sure felt like it). I had no clue that there was going to be this many people! We got some great deals on some amazing things but we didn't get back home until very late! It was an experience that I will never forget - we crashed as soon as we got back home. We needed sleep since we had to drive back to Tallahassee that day. To end our Thanksgiving festivities we got this email from CP - which made our entire worthwhile and it makes me want to play so hard to make him proud! "On a day to be thankful ... just wanted all of you to know how much you mean to me. I appreciate all of you working so hard and you deserve the recognition. While much of the time, the media will focus on me (because I'm the head coach) ... the team is great because of all the work each of you do every day. No way would we be successful without each of you caring and putting forth the effort to make this team (and college experience) special." Friday and Saturday flew by as we got back into Tully and started practicing for NCAA's. I could not wait for Sunday ... the day the Selection Show was going to be shown ... the day we would find out where we stood in the eye of the selection committee. And there was no way I could have prepared myself for what happened. It all began when we were announced at the Women's Basketball Game - my teammates and lined up and walked across center court as they made the announcement about us being ACC Champs - then we were shown to the Press Room in the basketball practice facility. It was 3:00 - and we wanted them to tell us right then. But of course we had to wait ... which felt like FOREVER! But then it started - and they began the show with the top 4 seeds:
The screen came up and we started reading, "Penn State ... Texas ... Florida State ... Stanford ... WAIT ... WHAT??? WOAH! #3 seed ... HOLY COW!!!!!!" This was pretty much the reaction by everyone sitting in that room. We had NO clue that we were going to be seeded so high - it pays off to have a challenging preseason schedule and that we did so well throughout the season!! I couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day!! And the best news overall was that we get to host the first and second rounds of the tournament in Tully!!! CP said, "I think getting the opportunity to host the opening rounds is going to give us a little bit of comfort initially. We don't have to go out on the road first so it's going to give our players a chance to get the butterflies out and go out play." My team and I feel the same exact way - we can't wait to see Tully jam packed with fans and have the chance to play at home!! As we went to bed that night with great news, I couldn't wait to start the week with a DAY OFF on Monday and get ready for the tournament to start that weekend! Monday was indeed an amazing day - not only because we didn't have practice - but we were honored with 2 major things. We moved up in #12 in the AVCA Poll and our very own Rachael Morgan was named Player of the Week by American Volleyball Scouting Service for second time this season. CP said, "Rachael had a great match against Miami and continues to mature as a player. Rachael is just a sophomore but she has made great strides and has become a go-to player for us. We expect her to be a huge factor for us in the NCAA Tournament." SO PROUD!
Well wow ... that's about all I can say right now. Looking back over the past two weeks I still can't believe the season my team and I have had - I could never have imagined it to turn out this way when we started back in August, but I couldn't be happier that this is the way I would leave FSU - making history and leaving a lasting impression on the program as a whole. This week we are practicing hard to get ready for the NCAA tournament - we have to prove to lots of people that we deserve the #3 seed we received. I am so ready to play and I can't wait to see what will happen in the next 3 weeks. If you are in town this weekend come see us take on Alabama A&M Saturday at 5 p.m. in Tully!